Six Days Solo in Algonquin

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Trip Info

Date: September 1st – 6th, 2019

ROUTE Mag > Misty Misty > White Trout x3 White Trout > McIntosh McIntosh > Mag
Travel (Single)
5 hrs
5.5 hrs
3.5 hrs
7 hrs
Travel (Double)
7 hrs
6 hrs
4.5 hrs
9 hrs
Portage #1
135m
850m
745m
405m
Portage #2
55m
155m
510m
845m
Portage #3
420m
195m
-
935m
Portage #4
135m
160m
-
450m
Portage #5
450m
80m
-
135m
Portage #6
935m
200m
-
420m
Portage #7
-
-
-
55m
Portage #8
-
-
-
135m
SINGLE CARRY
2,130m
1,640m
1,255m
3,380m
DOUBLE CARRY
6,390m
4,920m
3,765m
10,140m
DIFFICULTY Travel (Single) Travel (Double) Portages Single Carry Double Carry
Total
21 hrs
26.5 hrs
22 portages
8,405m
25,215m
Per Travel Day
5.3 hrs
6.6 hrs
5.5 portages / 382m
2,101m
6,304m

Map of trip details and campsites for six days solo in Algonquin canoe trip

Click image to view larger

Background

Initially, this trip was going to be 8 nights, which would have been my longest trip to date. For the week prior to the trip I had a hot/heavy-headed feeling, like my body couldn’t decide if it wanted to get sick or not. But as a last minute decision I decided to delay my trip by one day and give myself an extra day of rest.

I think the extra day was needed, and it actually worked out better in terms of campsite availability as well, since I’d be starting on the Sunday of Labour Day weekend (when things start to clear out) instead of the Saturday.

I was renting my solo boat from Algonquin Basecamp and Chris was awesome, having no issues needing to delay one day, even after the boat had already been delivered.

The final day before my trip I was definitely feeling better, although not quite 100%… but hey, if things got worse once I started, I could always turn around. I also just bought a new InReach Mini so in case of an actual emergency I’d have that as a last resort.

Day 1 – Magnetawan Lake to Misty Lake

My first day was going to be a long travel from Magnetawan to Misty, double-carrying my portages, and unsure about how the low water levels would affect getting through the Petawawa River. I woke up at 4am so I could be the first one at Algonquin Basecamp and the permit office across the street.

When I walked into the permit office, the first thing the lady said to me was “I need to talk to you about your route!” Nothing like a good scare at 7am before I even start my trip.

She basically just wanted to warn me about the low water levels between Daisy and Misty, and to let me know that she hasn’t had any reports about the stretch of Petawawa from Misty to Grassy Bay (since it’s not as commonly travelled), but I should assume the worst.

Oh well, I didn’t want to change my route… what’s a canoe trip without a little adventure and uncertainty, right?

I got on the water around 8:30am and spent a bit of time travelling alongside an ex-park ranger now acting as a part-time guide. I passed them once I got to the Petawawa, but there was no shortage of other people on the waters; most heading in the other direction finishing up their trip.

The Petawawa was definitely bad, but I was expecting it to be worse. There were two huge beaver dams that I had to get out and completely unload my boat, carry it down the dam, then reload everything back in. A couple smaller beaver dams that I was able to drag over, and then only two or three spots where I had to get out and drag my boat. The dragging was on dense sandy bottoms, which is much more enjoyable to walk along than sinking muddy swamp water.

A lonely dead tree on the Petawawa River in Algonquin Park
Sometimes it's lonely being a tree

It was a beautiful sunny day and I was constantly tempted to paddle shirtless and embrace the sun, but I knew staying covered and wearing my hat was the smart thing to do in order to avoid dehydration or heavy-headedness, considering the week I had before the trip. But on the stretch before the 935m leading into Misty, I gave in. The shirt came off, the sun was embraced, and I crossed my fingers that my head would feel ok.

The water levels were exceptionally low after the 935m portage, and I was just able to get by without bottoming out. But if I was travelling in a tandem boat with someone else and more gear, I’m sure we would have had to drag.

Misty was fully booked the night prior, and 10 of 16 available for the Sunday at the time I booked. This meant at least 10 groups were leaving the day I arrived, and I might have a chance of snagging one of the nice sites. The first small island site was already taken and I decided to take my chance and check out the northern site on the big island, which I heard was a great site. I had low hopes that it would be available, but as I continued rounding the corner I was surprised to see that it actually was vacant… and it was mine!

Rocky landing on the west side of the island campsite on Misty Lake
West side of campsite, official landing is just around the corner

During the next hour or two while I slowly set up camp there were about 3 or 4 groups that came to check if it was free. I wasn’t racing for any specific sites on Misty, but I was definitely happy that I lucked out with one of the good ones.

While setting up camp I continued to notice more and more moose poop all throughout the site. Like, it was hard to walk anywhere without stepping on moose poop. Want to go to the beach landing? Watch out for the moose poop. Need to use the thunder box? Watch out for the moose poop. Time to get in the tent? Dammit I stepped in moose poop!

It’s kind of ironic as well because the actual thunder box was brand spankin new. I must have been the second or third person to use it, because I was able to see the ground all the way at the bottom.

The campsite had a big beach landing on the north side of the island, with a much larger rocky beach area on the west side of the site, tucked beside the cliffs. Both of those areas offer good water access for moose, but otherwise it’s a cliff campsite and I was surprised that it was such a hot spot for moose activity. Anyways, I figured I might get a visitor later in the evening, and I knew even if I did, I’d probably scare myself into thinking it was a bear.

I had an early dinner, set up my GoPro to take a time lapse of the sunset, and went for a long evening paddle. I circled the island and then headed towards the bay just northwest of the island, hoping to spot some moose near the shore. I didn’t see any moose, but I did hang around and watch a busy beaver for a good 20min while admiring the beautiful sunset.

Watching the sunset from my canoe on Misty Lake in Algonquin
A true Algonquin sunset: 7:47pm facing west
Looking towards north island campsite on Misty Lake during the sunset
A true Algonquin sunset: 7:51pm facing east
Late sunset looking west on Misty Lake in Algonquin Park
A true Algonquin sunset: 8:02pm facing west

By the time I got back to camp it was already dark. I decided I wasn’t going to make a fire that night so I just relaxed on the big cliffs and stargazed for a while before heading to my tent. I could have sworn I heard something moving along the flat rocky area of the shoreline, but when I went to check with my headlamp, I didn’t see anything. It must have been the ghost moose that haunts the island.

So I went back to the cliffs; I tested my InReach Mini and sent my first ‘preset’ message, which took surprisingly longer than anticipated. It said poor GPS signal when I was literally on an open cliff with a clear view of the sky. It still went through, I was just a bit surprised by the message.

I was dead tired and knew I was going to pass out the second my head hit my pillow; but first I wanted to plug in my GoPro to a power bank to recharge.

Uh oh.

I brought two regular USB chargers but forgot the micro USB at home. Thankfully I had a few spare GoPro batteries, but I was still disappointed that I’d have to be a lot more cautious with my usage. No more GoPro time lapses for the rest of the trip, that was for sure. It also meant that I didn’t have any way to charge my InReach if needed, but thankfully that wasn’t a concern since I only went through a couple % of battery each day.

Day 2 – Misty Lake to White Trout Lake

This was going to be another relatively long day of travel. I wasn’t concerned with the actual distance, but I was concerned with how much of it was river travel and the uncertainty of how bad the water levels were actually going to be.

I woke up early and packed up camp relatively quickly, getting a quick start to the day. The waters were very calm and I really enjoyed paddling across Misty. It’s a nice feeling being the only person on the water during a calm morning, paddling by as all the other groups are just starting to wake up and begin their morning routine.

I landed at my first portage of the day, the 850m connecting Misty back to the Petawawa. I was welcomed with an overgrown steep incline to start the portage, two massive circular saw blades leaning against a tree, an undesirable amount of mosquitos, and a pile of cleaned bare animal bones.

Well, this isn’t eerie at all.

Bare animal bones on beach landing of portage
Cleaned bare or a cleaned bear?
Large circular saw wheel at beginning of portage in Algonquin Park
I wonder what these were used for

Parts of the portage were definitely overgrown, but otherwise it was just buggy. Way buggier than I was hoping this September trip would be. Portage-wise, it was pretty easy though, just like the next 5 following.

And to my surprise, the Petawawa really wasn’t that bad. Except that one section. Ah, yes, that one section between the 195m and 160m. Remember those hard sandy bottoms I got to drag over on Day 1? Yeah, this was the exact opposite.

Gross, mucky, muddy waters that I sunk deep into with every step, almost losing my shoe each time I tried to take my next step. The waters were dark and covered with a thick layer of grassy weeds along the top, making it impossible to see the numerous rocks that the boat was getting dragged over.

I was really, really hoping that the final stretch between the 160m and the last two back-to-back portages wouldn’t be like this.

And to my relief, it was completely fine.

I took my time during the first little bit of Grassy Bay, admiring the beautiful scenery before it opened up into White Trout. Once I got to White Trout I started paddling harder, heading towards the island sites. The small northeastern island was already taken, and a group beat me to the horseshoe island by no more than one minute.

I really didn’t want to keep paddling any further, but what can you do? I passed by all the sites on the eastern shore, with one or two looking cozy enough to call home for the night. But I continued paddling; I wanted to check out the northern sites.

I remember the last time I was on White Trout two years ago I saw one of the northern sites from the distance and it looked like a nice site with lots of exposed rock by the shore. I immediately saw the site in the distance and went towards it.

View of White Trout Lake campsite #1 from the water
Northwesternmost site on White Trout Lake

As I pulled up to the site I noticed it was very overgrown and had no good landing. I already paddled all this way so I was at least going to give it a fair shot, so I got out of the boat and scouted the site.

There are a handful of sites I’ve come across that just left a weird feeling in my stomach, and this was one of them. There was a picture on the orange campsite marker of what looked like a massive mosquito flying, holding a person below them. I’m sure it was meant to be humorous, but it almost felt like some type of warning sign (I’m 86% sure a giant mosquito wasn’t going to come and pick me up, but it still felt eerie). Areas of the campsite were overgrown, and there was lots of wood scattered everywhere. But really, there was just an inexplicable feeling that told me I couldn’t stay there.

Orange campsite sign in Algonquin Park with yellow mosquito drawing
A not-so-welcoming campsite marker

I do have to say, however, the views looking out of the site, towards the tall cliffs along the eastern shoreline, were pretty damn epic.

I got back into my boat and let the winds drag me for a few minutes while having a quick snack. I paddled back to the sites on the eastern shoreline in the south half of the lake and after a bit of back-and-forth, decided to take the second site from the south (in the cluster of four).

I had a couple nights to spend on White Trout and when I passed the small island earlier, the group told me they were leaving the next day. This campsite gave me a view of the island so I would be able to see when they left, and then decide if I wanted to move sites.

The skies started to get dark and I decided the first thing I was going to do was hang a tarp. It started to rain midway through the hang, but it wasn’t a heavy downpour so I didn’t really mind. It was already pretty late in the afternoon so I spent the rest of the day similar to Day 1; I set up camp, had an early dinner, and went for an evening paddle. Although this time I collected a bit of wood to make myself a small fire and kill some time between sunset and stargazing.

Paddling out to watch the sunset on White Trout Lake
Beautiful sunset on White Trout Lake
Watching the sunset on White Trout Lake from my canoe
It doesn't get any better than this

The rocky landing at the front of the site had one bar of cell service, so I used it to check the weather for my next few days on White Trout. It called for rain the following evening, thunderstorms that night, and rain the next morning, followed by sun for the rest of the day. I decided that I would move to the island for Day 3 and Day 4, making camp for two nights. I’d ride out the storm on the first night and then enjoy the sunny weather during the latter half of Day 4.

Day 3 – Moving Campsites on White Trout Lake

Instead of waiting until the group left the island I decided to pack up camp and paddle over. I wasn’t going to be a nuisance and hover in front of the site; I figured I could check out the ranger cabin, paddle over to some of the sites on the southern shore, etc. and just do a bit of exploring.

It was 8:30am when I got on the water, and coincidentally the group was pulling out of the island right as I was passing by. Great timing! I decided to go on shore and set up camp and save the exploring for a little bit later.

Canoe along the rocky beach landing of White Trout Lake campsite #8
My home for the next two nights

The first thing I did was make sure that the island was going to be a safe place to ride out the storm. Yes, it’s an island, but it’s also very close to the mainland where there are taller trees that lightning would strike first, unlike a ‘stranded island’ in the middle of a big lake, which is the tallest thing around.

I did a full walk through of the island with thunderstorm considerations in mind. The predominantly red pine trees were spread apart and there were no signs of previous storms hitting the island.

The island has a big elevation and the tent spots were all at the top, in open spaces very exposed to the skies… so that wasn’t very ideal. There’s enough room for literally 10+ tents throughout the island, but they’re all in non-ideal exposed areas. I finally found one spot that was perfect; it wasn’t exactly meant to have a tent pitched there, but it was going to work.

There’s a little cove tucked away on the northeast side of the island, and right by the beach landing there’s a small secondary fire pit that someone made on the ground. But in between that mini fire pit and the beach landing was just enough space to pitch my tent.

Green tent pitched by the water on campsite #8 on White Trout Lake
Impromptu tent spot

And best of all, it was flat ground, low elevation, and completely sheltered from the westerly winds. I would walk from the main fire pit area with the wind thrashing against me, to my tent area, and the wind would completely disappear… a true Algonquin magic trick.

Normally I would avoid islands during a storm, but this seemed like it would do just fine.

Next on my list, hang a tarp. I spent a little bit of time thinking about the best location and I ended up hanging a tarp that I was very proud of. It covered all the flat benches so I was still able to make use of them, it was high enough that I could fully stand under it, and there was just enough room to get a small fire going without risk of burning the tarp. It was very taut and I felt fully confident that it would hold up against whatever was thrown at it that night.

Storm proof the island? Check.

Gear set up under tarp on my White Trout Lake campsite
Keeping a clean camp

Now it was time to do some exploring. I paddled by the ranger cabin while hugging the shoreline and then went towards the first southern site. The ex-ranger I met on Day 1 was there with his group and they were just on their way out.

After they left I went on land to check out the site and collect some firewood. I went to look at the other southern site but couldn’t actually find it. I wasn’t exactly trying too hard, but I didn’t find it right away so I turned around and went back to my island.

View from the water of campsite #10 on White Trout Lake in Algonquin Park
Southern site with beach landing

The rest of the day was spent mostly under the tarp as the rain tapered on and off. It was cold, rainy, and overcast, but I still had a really enjoyable day. After the long travels during Day 1 and Day 2, I was finally able to relax. Even though I took my time setting up camp, I was done everything by the early afternoon and had the rest of the day to sit back and just soak in the scenery.

I had a lazy evening and got in my tent soon after the overcast-hidden sunset. The wind was picking up and the clouds in the sky were getting thicker. The storm hadn’t started yet, but I knew it was coming soon.

Day 4 – A Rest Day on White Trout Lake

I remember waking up multiple times throughout the night from the lightning and thunder, and in my half-asleep dazed state tried to count the time between the two. It was staying at a pretty consistent 7-8 seconds, meaning it was only a couple of kilometers away. But I wasn’t too concerned and I actually ended up getting a pretty decent sleep, all things considered.

But when I got out of the tent at 6am it was windy. Extremely windy actually. Windy enough that even if I wanted to leave the island, I probably couldn’t. I thought the worst of it was going to be overnight, but Day 4 was a straight up windstorm.

I spent the first few hours of the morning processing wood, including the numerous piles of downed branches/trees left off to the side from previous campers. I made a small fire and a cup of coffee and sat under the tarp as the wind furiously howled all around me.

Huge pile of firewood beside 20l blue barrel
Started collecting wood, ended up building a dam (20L barrel for scale)

The worst part about it was that the wind was coming from the north today, and my tent had first row seats to the wind-thrashing-throwdown. In other words, my tent was set up perfectly for the overnight storm, but it was in the absolute worst spot for the windstorm. It took a strong beating from the wind all day, but it held up like a champ.

Overall Day 4 was another very lazy day. I just lounged around the island and spent a lot of time alone with my thoughts. I watched as groups entered the lake, struggling against the wind while trying to find a vacant site to occupy for the night.

The wind finally started to calm down in the evening, so I went for a paddle to the cell-service hotspot just south of the horseshoe island. Supposedly only 3 sites were booked on White Trout, but I was able to see at least 6 occupied sites (including mine), and there were a few more out of sight that could have been occupied as well. Most of the groups came around 4-6pm so I’m guessing the winds forced a lot of people to camp off permit.

I came back and ate dinner on the large flat rocks at the front of the island as the winds turned into a gentle breeze. It was starting to turn into a really beautiful evening.

Golden hour on my island campsite on White Trout Lake
Golden hour at this golden campsite

I had an absolutely gigantic pile of firewood, so I decided to make use of it. I tend to keep my fires really small when travelling solo, and I only usually keep them going for about 45min after the sunset. I probably only used 5-10% of my total wood. It was pretty insane how much leftover wood there was for the next campers.

I tucked all of the leftover wood beneath the benches. I wanted to leave a note that said “You owe me one” because I thought it would be funny if I arrived at a site with that much wood and an anonymous note with that written on it… but it was too much effort and I chose laziness instead.

Huge courtesy pile of firewood tucked underneath campsite benches on White Trout Lake
The biggest 'courtesy pile' I've ever left

After the fire I went back to the rocks to stargaze. The view in front of me was without a doubt one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen. The crescent of the quarter moon was directly in front of me, hanging low in the sky with a soft glow around it. Thousands of stars surrounded the rest of the sky while the horseshoe island made a perfect silhouette in front of the darker, more distant shorelines. The slowly rippling waters held a bright and beautiful shimmer from the reflection of the moon. Lying on the rocks with a gentle breeze against my face while admiring that night sky is something I’ll never forget.

After lying on the rocks for the better part of an hour, I went back to my tent and called it a night.

Evening sunset on White Trout Lake in Algonquin Park
Early evening before the glowing moonshine and display of stars

Day 5 – White Trout Lake to McIntosh Lake

It was sad waking up on Day 5 since it meant leaving the island, which easily became one of my favourite campsites in Algonquin. Everyone has their personal preferences when it comes to campsites, and this island was basically my ideal site. And knowing how popular it is and how many reservations there are on the lake, it’s a difficult site to snag. Who knows if and when I’ll actually get to camp here again.

Day 5 was going to be another day of uncertainty. I had a long stretch of Grassy Bay to paddle, and I had no idea what the water levels were going to be like. But what really worried me were the two sections of McIntosh Creek before entering McIntosh Lake. Was it even going to be passable? Would I have to turn around and paddle back through Grassy Bay and go through the Petawawa? I really hoped not.

The last time I paddled Grassy Bay I only went halfway and then turned south through the portages to Sunbeam. But it was such a beautiful paddle during the early morning and I was really excited to paddle the full length of it this time. Once again I did the paddle during the early morning, and once again, it was really beautiful.

Calm waters on Grassy Bay in Algonquin Park
Always beautiful paddling Grassy Bay

There was one small stretch where the passageway closed up and I had to paddle over shallow lily pads, but otherwise the water levels weren’t much of an issue.

The creeks had shallow sections but were way more manageable than I was anticipating. With the exception of a few beaver dams and one massive sand bank (basically a 5 metre portage), I don’t think I needed to get out of my boat at all.

The portages weren’t too bad either, and I ended up arriving to McIntosh Lake at around 1pm. There was supposedly no one else camping on McIntosh that night, which I found hard to believe. Not only is McIntosh a really big lake, but it’s also really popular and can be built into several different routes. I figured there would be at least a few last minute reservations or people camping off-permit. But when I arrived, it was a ghost town.

My comfortable set up in my solo canoe
Foot rest and my essentials; a comfortable setup

I paddled to the middle of the lake to take a look around. I was able to see most sites on the lake, and they were all indeed vacant. It was still early in the day though, so who knows, maybe other people would show up later.

I heard that one of the campsites on the southeastern shore was nice, and that the northern island was nice, so I figured I’d take one of those. But which one should I check out first? I actually looked at the two southern islands first, and both of them were pretty good. Neither offered a good sunset view though, which was a priority for me, especially because it was such a beautiful sunny day.

My plan was to check the northern island site, and then depending on my thoughts, check the southeastern shore site. I was able to see the big rocks of the southeastern site jutting out by the shoreline and it did indeed look like a nice site. But I started with the northern island.

Once I got there, I knew right away that this was home for the night. The front of the site is a big piece of exposed rock giving a 270-degree view onto the lake, with a few smaller chunks of flat rock sticking out in different directions by the shore.

Large rocks at the shoreline of campsite #7 on McIntosh Lake
Northern island campsite on McIntosh Lake

There’s a man made chair… or more appropriately, a man made “throne” set up to face directly into the sunset. I self proclaimed it as the Sunset Throne. There was also a single flat bench in this front section of the site, and a flat area behind the bench that I was considering pitching my tent.

Wooden chair on McIntosh Lake campsite #7 in Algonquin Park
Sunset Throne

And I haven’t even described the actual interior of the site yet. Once you go inland there’s a proper fire pit with tons of seating, good shelter from the elements, multiple large flat tent spots, several branches to hang food from, and easy walking towards the back of the island where there was a small opening towards the east. Even without the front section, this would be a great campsite.

But I liked the front section 🙂

I went back and relaxed in the sun for a few hours, enjoying the pure beauty of a deserted McIntosh Lake. Throughout the whole day I only saw one other group, and they were passing through, on towards Timberwolf.

There wasn’t really much to do in terms of setting up camp. I decided I wasn’t going to make a fire, so all I did was pitch my tent and set up a food hang. I wanted to pitch my tent on the flat area behind the bench, but it was all rock right below the ground so it wasn’t possible to peg down properly.

There was a little corner of flat ground tucked away just to the side, cradled by the surrounding trees, and I was able to pitch my tent there. One corner had to be pulled out and tied to a root a couple meters away, but otherwise I was able to peg down normally.

Greek Eureka tent pitched on McIntosh Lake in Algonquin Park
Nestled in the corner at the front of the island

Afterwards I went for a late afternoon paddle to check out the southeastern site I mentioned earlier, along with a couple others on the way. I definitely preferred my island site, but some of the sites on route were very nice. One of them even had 3 separate fire pits, which I’d never seen before!

A few of the campsites were extremely abused though. I found a full-sized camping chair, a wheel from a canoe-cart, a canoe paddle, and tons more. It was easily the most leftover junk I’ve come across and unfortunately they were all large items that I wasn’t able to pack out myself. It’s amazing how little respect some people have for the backcountry, and the number of things that they leave behind.

I got back to my site just in time to watch the sunset and what I saw baffled me. Towards my left was the moon starting to set among the whisk of clouds; a bit to the right was a small section of a rainbow; and a bit more to the right was the sun setting low in the sky. How these three things lined up perfectly in my panoramic view was honestly quite amazing.

Moonset, Sunset, and a rainbow on McIntosh Lake
Moonset, Sunset, and a Rainbow

I continued to watch the sunset from the Sunset Throne and afterwards went to one of the chunks of flat rock where I found one bar of cell service. It seems like every year I’m finding more and more hot spots of cell service deeper into the park. On this trip alone I had two different spots on White Trout, and now one spot on McIntosh.

It’s not like these lakes are full of service, it’s only at very specific hot spots, and it’s only one bar that will let you call out but will give trouble loading a webpage. It’s nice being able to check the weather though.

Speaking of the weather, what I saw put me in a big dilemma. Day 7 was timed perfectly for me to get home for a big family celebration. But any major delays and I would miss it. I planned on hitting the water at the crack of dawn, but even that only gave me 1 hour of buffer… who knows if I’d have headwinds, hit traffic on the drive home, etc.

So when I saw that Day 7 was now calling for risk of thunderstorms, I had to decide if I wanted to take that risk. If it storms, I can’t paddle, and if I can’t paddle, I risk getting home too late.

But on the other hand, going straight from McIntosh to Magnetawan on Day 6 would be an extremely long day with double carries, and it called for rain most of the day as well.

Option 1 – have a short day to Misty before the rain hits, set up camp, and take my chances on Day 7

Option 2 – have an extremely long day, a good amount in the rain, cutting the trip a day short

The forecast for Day 7 was initially sunny, then rain, and now chance of thunderstorms. I didn’t like that progression. Option 2 was the only option that guaranteed me home for the celebration, so I was heavily leaning towards that.

I called back home and devised a plan. I’d hit the waters as early as possible, and once I got to Misty (where I was going to camp on Day 6), I’d make the decision. I’d send a message from my InReach to let them know, and if I were coming home, they’d call Algonquin Basecamp to coordinate anything on that end.

I had an early wakeup and a potentially very long day ahead of me, so it was time to go to bed. My body was already sore and I knew I needed a good sleep.

Day 6 – McIntosh Lake to Mangetawan Lake

This was the first morning that I actually set an alarm. 5:40 AM.

For the first time in my canoe-tripping experience, I packed up camp using my headlamp while it was still dark out. I got onto the water at exactly 6:57, right as the sun was crossing the shoreline.

While I was paddling to my first of potentially 8 double-carrying portages, I realized that I spent my whole time on the island in the front of the site and didn’t actually use the ‘real’ part of the site at all.

But hey, I’m a simple man. Give me a chunk of exposed rock, sunny weather, and a place to pitch my tent, and I’m good to go.

As I continued paddling I passed by more vacant sites and confirmed that yes, I was definitely the only person camping on McIntosh that night. It’s one thing being on a lake where you only have a few campsites in view so you’re not sure who else is camping around the corner… but being on a huge lake like this and being able to see most sites, knowing that I was in fact alone, was a pretty cool experience.

A calm and very pretty morning on Timberwolf Lake in Algonquin Park
A calm and beautiful Timberwolf Lake

I got to the first portage and right away I knew this was going to be one of those days where I had a predetermined destination and goal timeframe, and I’d move fast to get there. I sometimes push myself harder than I should, but I enjoy it.

I got to Misty in great time and didn’t see a soul in sight. The small island was open so I pulled up to make my decision. Option 1… or Option 2. I liked the site and I really wanted to spend my last night there, even if it was going to rain for most of the day. But I thought about the optimistic scenario, the realistic scenario, and the worst case scenario, and I knew I needed to go with Option 2 and head home.

Arriving at Misty Lake portage landing from Timberwolf Lake
Arriving at Misty Lake
A calm morning paddle on Misty Lake in September
A calm and peaceful Misty Lake

I had a very spotty one bar of cell service at a specific spot on the island (one more to add to the list), so I called home to say I was going with Option 2. I spent about 20-30min just trying to get the call to go through, so that set me back a bit on time, but I hit the waters right after and continued with the hustle.

I continued pushing on, making great time throughout the day. The water levels were definitely better on the Petawawa this time around, and asides from those two huge beaver dams that I needed to unload and reload, I only had to drag my boat for a short 10m stretch.

Huge beaver dam blocking the Petawawa River
Either drag and destroy the boat, or unload and carry over

I liked that even though the day felt never ending, the hardest parts were at the beginning. The longest portages were tackled in the morning, and the last ‘challenge’ after the Petawawa was the long paddle through Daisy.

That’s right about when the rain started to hit, and by the time I was done the Daisy paddle, there wasn’t a dry spot on my body. My gear was drenched and muddy, and my clothes were soaked.

I honestly didn’t mind though, I had my rain jacket on, a baseball cap to keep the rain from hitting my face, and all my gear was properly waterproofed.

I learned a long time ago that in situations like this, you just have to embrace it. Enjoy the rain. Make the rain your friend. The rain isn’t going to stop just because you ask it to, so you might as well become buddies.

I finally finished the Daisy paddle and even though I was at the final stretch, there were still three portages. That’s three times I needed to unload and reload my boat, and three more double carries. They’re all short, but can’t the day just be done already?

I pulled into the Magnetawan docks at about 2:30, finishing the day in 7.5 hrs including the 30min break at the Misty island. I was pretty impressed with myself for making that time, but I could already tell my body wasn’t going to be very happy with me later.

I got back to Algonquin Basecamp and spent a while chatting with Chris about my trip. He was super accommodating with all of my last minute changes and still had a genuine interest in hearing how everything went. I’d highly recommend renting from them if you’re ever starting a trip in that area.

I took a much needed nap before my drive home and ended up making it back to the city by about 8pm.

The Aftermath

Even though the trip was shortened by a day at the beginning and a day at the end, it was still the second longest solo that I’ve done. I had actually planned this trip to be 8 days for the sake of it becoming my longest solo, which is ironic in hindsight.

The InReach mini worked fine, but it said “Poor GPS” pretty much every time I used it, even when I was on exposed rock with clear views of the sky. The weather reports were semi-accurate, although I got a good laugh when it told me there was a “Gentle Breeze” right in the middle of the Day 4 windstorm.

Cell service seems to be getting stronger throughout the park; I had two spots on White Trout, one on McIntosh, and a very poor on-and-of bar on Misty as well. It’s nice to get weather updates and check in with my girlfriend back home, but I hope they don’t continue to boost the signal and make it more widespread.

Otherwise, everything about the trip was really enjoyable. I had some sunny days where I got to paddle shirtless, and then some days where I was bundled up in all my layers and still cold. True Algonquin September weather.

I stayed on some great sites, the islands on White Trout and McIntosh definitely becoming some of my all-time favourites.

I also had a great variety of scenery between the two stretches of the Petawawa and the full length of Grassy Bay, along with the regular lakes. I didn’t see any moose but I did see multiple beavers, lots of loons, a crazy amount of frogs, and one small snake.

Oh, and one Tipping Spider. If you’ve never heard of them before, a Tipping Spider is actually a term used to describe a handful of different spider breeds. They’re very large and very scary, and if you’re in the canoe and you see one, it will scare the crap out of you and you will probably tip the boat… hence Tipping Spider. (Ok I made all that up, but I did see a very large, very scary spider in my boat that scared the crap out of me.)

Overall I’m very happy with how the trip went and I immediately got a case of post-Algonquin “I need to go back” syndrome. Hopefully I’ll have time for one more trip this year.

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